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Engagement Ring Buying Guide

diamond shapes, engagement ring, engagement ring buying guide, lab diamonds, natural diamonds, ring settings
Engagement Ring Buying Guide

Few things compare to that monumental moment when you pop the big question. The perfect ring elevates the experience by providing an artistic expression of your commitment and love. But how do you decide on that one ideal ring for your special someone? We’ve put together a comprehensive engagement ring buying guide with tips to help you find the perfect symbol of your one-of-a-kind love story.

How to Pick an Engagement Ring

The right engagement ring is the catalyst for magical proposals. With so many options, however, choosing the perfect ring can feel overwhelming. While everyone’s search is unique, these tips can help you shop for the ideal engagement ring for that special someone.

Choosing a Diamond

A diamond engagement ring is one of the most significant purchases you will make in your lifetime. With this in mind, you want to make sure you are doing it right. One of the biggest parts of the process centers on choosing a beautiful diamond.

Your love story deserves a gemstone with brilliance and fire that will elevate the moment. With any diamond gemstone, the 4C’s — cut, color, clarity and carat weight — combine to determine clarity and value. This is true of natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds which are physically, chemically and optically identical to diamonds mined from the earth.

At the same time, just as the 4C’s play a role in determining which diamond you should buy; the shape of a diamond is also a critical launching point of your individual engagement ring design.

If you don’t know what shape to choose, it can help to know that round diamonds tend to be the most popular cut because they have eye-catching brilliance, fire and light performance. Round diamonds can also accommodate nearly any ring setting and they never go out of fashion.

That said, although round brilliant diamonds make up around three-quarters of all cumulative diamond purchases, many women prefer something different. Princess cuts, for instance, feature an alluring angular beauty that looks fabulous in classic and geometric settings. The second most popular cut, these shapes offer the brilliance of a gorgeous round-cut diamond at a lower price point. Still, others prefer a more unique shape such as a cushion cut, Asscher cut, emerald cut or oval cut gem.

Things to Consider

From size to shape to sourcing, there are key things to consider when choosing a diamond for your engagement ring.

man proposing to girlfriend on dock

Carat Weight

Does gem size matter when it comes to diamond engagement rings? The answer is simple: If it’s important to you or your partner, then it matters. If a smaller diamond will make you or your partner think less of a ring, you probably have your answer.

Still, the age-old question of quantity versus quality remains. Some people prefer larger stones while others want the clearest possible diamond gemstone, regardless of the actual carat weight. In the end, it comes down to personal preference. Try to get an idea of what your partner might prefer and then talk to the diamond experts at John Atencio to figure out how to best meet their expectations.


If you know what your partner wants in terms of diamond shape, that can help focus your engagement ring search. Every diamond shape (also known as a stone cut) is priced differently—and each has a varying price per carat. Round cuts are generally the most expensive, whereas marquise and pear cuts are less so.

If the gemstone’s size is important to you, you can get more carats at a more affordable price by choosing an alternative shape to the classic round cut. Because the shape of a diamond will work to determine its fire and brilliance, however, it’s important to talk to a reputable jeweler like John Atencio to fully understand the pros and cons of each available diamond shape.

If you don’t know your partner’s preference, consider discreetly asking her friends or family. You can also get input from the diamond experts at John Atencio who are ideally suited to guide you to a diamond cut that will appeal to her on-of-a-kind style.

Lab Diamond vs Natural Diamond

These days, you can choose between natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds created in dedicated facilities. When deciding between both options, it helps to understand the key differences and surprising similarities.

The Similarities

Lab-grown diamond engagement rings share many similarities with rings made with natural diamonds mined from the Earth. One of the biggest benefits of a lab-grown diamond ring is that, to the naked eye, it is essentially indistinguishable from a ring featuring a natural diamond. Even the most experienced diamond detector cannot identify lab diamonds because they are chemically and optically identical to natural diamond gems. The only real variance is that lab-grown diamonds include microscopic inscriptions. Without advanced equipment, however, her friends, family and co-workers will never know whether her diamond engagement ring includes naturally mined or lab-grown stones.

At the same time, both natural diamond and lab diamond rings are held to the same stringent standards (cut, color, clarity, and carat weight). Whenever you buy a diamond ring made with lab diamonds, you can be confident that it will have high-quality gemstones based on the all-important four Cs.

The Differences

One of the most significant differences between lab-grown rings and natural diamond rings centers on sourcing. Because there are a finite number of natural diamonds on the planet, they will always be rarer and, therefore, more valuable. Contrarily, since lab diamonds are limitless, they aren’t usually quite as valuable or costly as natural diamonds forged beneath the surface of the Earth over billions of years.

That said, many brides and grooms prefer the way lab diamonds are sourced. In too many instances, natural diamonds are linked with ecological concerns and human rights issues. It’s a sad truth that too few jewelers embrace John Atencio’s strict ethical standards. When creating his uniquely beautiful diamond engagement rings John maintains an unwavering adherence to stringent ethical and social standards. This includes complying with the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), a planet-wide effort aimed at eliminating the trade of "conflict diamonds" which are used to fund wars, human trafficking, and other harmful activities.

In the same vein, while John is careful to make sure his natural diamonds are sourced from eco-conscious suppliers; many other jewelers commonly create their rings using diamonds that were recklessly mined in ways that harm local water supplies and the surrounding natural environment.

Given that all lab-grown diamonds are made using responsibly sourced materials, these concerning issues don’t exist. Lab-grown diamond engagement rings also usually cost about 30% less than natural diamond rings of comparable quality and size.

With all that said, there are plenty of good reasons why brides prefer natural diamond rings. Many adore the history associated with natural gems and like the idea of owning what is essentially a rare collector’s item.

Which Option Is Better?

When it comes to deciding between a lab-grown diamond engagement ring and a ring with a natural diamond, there really is no good or bad choice. As with any meaningful piece of jewelry, it all comes down to each bride’s personal preference. Some prefer lab diamond rings because they like the lower price and appreciate the eco-friendly way they are sourced. Others demand natural diamonds because they know they are getting stunning gemstones that were created by the Earth’s natural processes billions of years ago.

Choosing a Setting

engagement ring settings

Selecting the right setting is one of the most crucial steps in buying an engagement ring for your fiancé-to-be. This not only determines how the ring will look; it ultimately helps determine what kind of diamond you will buy.

The term “setting” essentially refers to how gemstones will be mounted into precious metal bands. A ring’s setting should highlight the physical beauty of a diamond while complementing the look and personality of the wearer.

To achieve a beautifully balanced look for your engagement ring, you should select a mounting with the carat weight of your diamond in mind. If your mounting is too big, thick or wide for the diamond, the setting will ultimately overpower the gemstone, making it look disproportionately small. Contrarily, if the mounting is too small for the stone, the ring will appear out of proportion and awkward to the eye. An oversized gemstone can also make the whole ring appear out of balance and cause it to shift on the finger.

After you’ve settled on the perfect stone, you need to determine what to put around it. It can help to think of the center gemstone as a stunning piece of artwork and the setting as the frame. Whether you take a bold, classic or contemporary approach, it’s important that the ring reflect the personality and style of the person who will ultimately be wearing it. Find a jewelry expert you can trust, provide them with an idea of what you think you want, and let them use their expertise to guide you in the right direction.

As a skilled artist and seasoned jeweler, John Atencio brings a unique perspective to the design of each engagement ring. With most ring settings found at other jewelry stores, you can simply place a stone into the premade setting, regardless of scale, because it’s the fastest and easiest approach. At John Atencio, all of our remarkable engagement rings are crafted to be an artistic love story, conceived, designed and forged to stand out.

It starts with a uniquely inspired, hand-sketched design and ends with a stunning piece of artistry. The result is a flawlessly balanced design that sets the gemstone and ring in a harmonious union based on the distinctive taste and lifestyle of your bride-to-be.

Selecting a Metal

Traditionally, engagement rings are made from either yellow or white gold, silver, or platinum. In recent years, however, rose gold has emerged as a fresh, contemporary alternative. While platinum may look very similar to silver, it is much more expensive due to its rarity and greater density. Because certain precious metals will scratch easier than others, it’s important to consider your partner’s lifestyle. If they are very active and outdoorsy or consistently work with their hands, a more durable metal may be more appropriate.

How to Shop for a Custom Engagement Ring

Ideally, you want flawless harmony between the ring setting and the diamond. You also want to select a setting that will complement the wearer’s unique look, preferences and lifestyle. This can be challenging without guidance from an experienced jewelry expert.

John Atencio takes a unique approach to settings, designing each piece around the center diamond—from a 3/4 carat to 2 carat—scaling up the whole ring to maintain flawless dimensions and general aesthetic. This results in a beautifully balanced design that sets the ring and diamond in a harmonious union based on the individual taste and lifestyle of your fiancé-to-be.

Whether you want an engagement ring with a nontraditional setting, a fancy-shaped stone, or a contemporary design that blends multiple styles, John can craft a distinctively stunning custom engagement ring that’s as beautiful and unique as your love.

Other Considerations

While most people dream about the perfect proposal, few of us know what to expect once we start planning to pop the big questions. Here are some things most people wish they already knew before they ever considered proposing.

man and woman discussing engagement rings

Perk Up Your Ears

When your girlfriend starts talking about jewelry, your ears should perk up. Perhaps you're going out to dinner, and she's getting really excited to wear a piece of jewelry. Maybe something shiny catches her eye while walking through the mall. Whatever the case, you should take notice and start making mental notes on what she likes and doesn't like. You might not realize it at first, but once you do, you'll be on a mission to find the perfect engagement ring.

Understand That All Diamonds are Different

Each diamond has its own story and a price tag attached to it. You may think all diamonds look the same when you start shopping around. This isn't true. If you're considering a diamond engagement ring, you'll want to spend the time learning about the diamond basics: the 4Cs. Once you understand the ins and outs of diamonds, you can take the time to find the perfect one to meet your budget and criteria.

Get Tips from People You Trust

When you're eager to propose, you'll want to talk to those close to you who've done it already. This might be family, friends or co-workers who all have unique stories on how they proposed and what they did to find the perfect ring. These tips will help you as you shop around, and they might even give you ideas on how to propose. This may also give you more confidence in buying the ring, especially if you get additional input from the attentive jewelry consultants at John Atencio.

Consider a Personalized Piece

couple holding hands with custom engagement ring

The thought of going with a custom engagement ring sounds expensive, time-consuming, and downright scary to some men. The truth is a custom engagement ring is one of the best ways you can show how much you know her. Depending on your budget and preferences, custom rings don't have to break the bank. Work with a jeweler like John Atencio to discover the beauty and love that goes into a custom engagement ring.

Practice Patience

It's the proposal that stresses men out the most. Once you buy an engagement ring and have it in your possession, it may feel as though it is burning a hole in your pocket. You may want to practice proposing almost every minute until you actually do it. Many planned proposals end up being more spontaneous than anticipated because it’s hard to wait once you have the ring in your hand. Planning the right proposal that shows how much you love her will come naturally; you'll know when, where, and how to do it, even when your nerves start getting the better of you leading up to the moment.

While choosing the right engagement ring can feel overwhelming, your experience needn’t be that way. At John Atencio, our attentive experts can show you how to choose the right stone cut and carat, along with the perfect metal and setting for your special someone. Visit one of our locations where our experts can guide you toward the one best ring for your love story.

Listen to our podcast episode on what to look for in an engagement ring.